Colleges Hard-Pressed to Explain Variations in Price

To the casual observer, the University of Connecticut at Storrs and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill look a lot alike.

Both are public flagship institutions, research universities that enroll about the same number of undergraduates (around 18,000), and both have popular and successful basketball teams for men and women.

Notably, they get roughly the same amount of money from their respective state legislatures, according to the most recent federal data—about $486-million each in the 2011-12 academic year.

There are, of course, plenty of differences between the two campuses, but one that stands out is the price. The average in-state, full-time student at UConn paid about $5,000 more per year in the 2012 academic year than a similar student paid at Chapel Hill, according to federal figures. …

…The difficulty is due, in part, to the complexity and number of variables that go into determining how much students will pay at a given college.

But another reason it’s difficult to explain differences in price is that colleges are not good at measuring how much it actually costs to deliver a higher education.

William F. Massey, a professor emeritus of higher-education administration at Stanford University, said most universities “don’t really know” why their costs and prices are different from those of other institutions. <Read more.>

Via Eric Kelderman, The Chronicle of Higher Education.